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Sweetwater nuns share faith through bookstore — and Facebook

For Sweetwater bookstore run by the Daughters of St. Paul, has been a fixture for local Catholics for more than two decades. But the nuns have also taken to Facebook and Twitter to share their faith — and keep the faithful up to date.

By Rodolfo Roman
Special to the Herald
For most people, using social media means chatting with friends on Facebook, or Tweeting a picture of their pet doing something cute.

But for Superior Sister Teresa Maria Meza, social media means spreading the word of God.

“It is the way of communicating now,” said Meza, who belongs the Daughters of St. Paul, an international order devoted to sharing their faith through various media— traditionally books and other printed material, but increasingly through the web. “The people can keep up with what is happening.”

But the local Daughters of St. Paul still believe in the importance of the printed word: Their store, Pauline Books and Media, has been a Sweetwater fixture for more than 20 years.

Tucked in a strip mall amid Nicaraguan restaurants like El Centroamericano and a Domino’s pizza, the shop at 145 SW 107th Ave. has a large selection of religious books and accessories such as rosaries and prayer cards, and offers classes like free weekly Bible study. The sisters at the bookstore update their Facebook page about three times a week.

“We know that that’s where everything is headed,” said Meza, 60, who was born in California, but attended convent in Mexico.

Their page has more than 1,300 friends. (Some of the nuns have their own Twitter accounts as well.)

For the most part, the store itself is silent and peaceful.

It’s equipped with a chapel where customers come to pray or read their religious books.

On a recent rainy Saturday, Clara Aleman was about to enter the chapel to pray.

“You can feel the presence of God here,” said Aleman, 77, who has been coming to the bookstore for years.

Holding a religious book, she said she visits the store about twice a week.

“I find comfort here,” she said. “It is a spiritual healing.”

The sisters from the order of the Daughters of St. Paul were founded in 1915 by Father Santiago Alberione. There are over 2,400 sisters who serve in more than 50 countries. Pauline sisters devote their time to communicate the word of Christ and are highly involved with the media. In Miami, currently, there are four sisters — two from California, one from Texas, and one from Brazil. The order’s North American headquarters, based in Boston, rotates the nuns every few years.

“For us, Christ is the master, the way, the truth and the life,” said Meza, 60.

For Deyanira Vega, working at the store has was a form of therapy after her husband Guillermo died four years ago.

“This place is my life,” said Vega, a Kendall resident who has worked at the store for more than 20 years.

“This is not like your average library, this is a place to find Jesus,” said Vega, whose husband also worked at the store.

The 5,000-square-foot store offers everything from bilingual Bibles, inspirational books and scapulars. There are hundreds of books, including titles in Portuguese, Spanish and French .

Their are gifts to celebrate for First Communions, as well as religious paintings, compact discs, DVDs and daily planners. There is also a distribution center on second floor, which processes orders and ships books — including many imports from Latin America — to other stores throughout the country. The Daughters of St. Paul, which owns the two-story store, employs one part-time and three full-time workers.

Meza said the sisters try their best to help customers.

“Sometimes a book won’t work for them, so we refer them to the chapel,” she said. “But, if not we let them know that they need help and to seek guidance from a priest.”

On the last Saturday of the month, the store hosts Coffee House, where chairs and book displays are moved out of the way to make room for a live band. Food and coffee is provided to guests. After the music, there is a moment of silence as guests and sisters join together for prayer.

Miami resident Rosa Noguera regularly makes a 20 minute drive to the store.

“The reality is that it entails our faith,” she said.

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